House Dems, Labor Advocates Request Haslam Delay Workers Comp Overhaul

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; April 2, 2013:

House Democrats are joining with workers’ advocates to ask Governor Haslam to delay HB194 until 2014, until the Department of Labor can get its house in order

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democrats joined with workers’ advocates today to call on Governor Bill Haslam to delay the workers’ comp overhaul package until 2014. This call comes after a report by the Tennessee Comptroller which shows gross mismanagement in the Department of Labor, the division of government that would be tasked with taking over the workers compensation review process under Gov. Haslam’s proposal.

“The lives of too many working people in Tennessee are at stake for the Governor to rush through drastic changes to the workers’ compensation system,” said State Rep. Joe Towns (R-Memphis). “If we get this wrong, or the Department of Labor can’t handle the workload, the families of working men and women will go hungry as we sort out these new changes.”

The House Finance Ways & Means Committee is scheduled to hear HB194, the Governor’s proposed overhaul of the workers’ compensation system, today at 3PM. This legislation would take workers’ compensation claims out of the hands of an impartial court system, and turn it over a new bureaucracy within the Department of Labor.

“It is time for Governor Haslam to pump the breaks on this runaway freight train,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “This is an incredibly complex system that we are completely changing and it has simply sailed through the legislature with very little overview or review. Working families will suffer if we don’t slow down and get this right.”

On March 28, Comptroller Justin Wilson released a scathing report which showed that the Department of Labor’s “internal controls…were ineffective or non-existent” with regards to the state’s unemployment insurance system. Democrats worry that the same mismanagement could result in injured workers being denied legitimate claims, which could cause working families to go hungry or homeless as a result of the changes to our workers’ compensation system.